Friday, April 11, 2008

MEMORY LOSS: FINALLY SOMEONE PUTS MY LIFE INTO WORDS


If it's not written down, don't expect me to remember it.
If it is written down, don't expect me to remember where I wrote it.

This is the story of my adult life. I've mentioned before (at least I think I have) that I used to be an extremely organized person - Type-A and proud of it.

I'm still TYPE-A, but I'm not as good at it. I'd give myself an F.
F = flunk. F = forgetful. F= frustration. Okay. I'll stop.

My ex-business partner knows of what I speak, she's laughing at this right now. We job shared for two years. She came in the first half of the week, I came in the second. There was constant downloading of info between us to keep up to speed. The poor girl was at a severe disadvantage because if I hadn't written a fact down in my notebook there was no getting it out of me, whether it was what was said in a meeting or, even, who attended the meeting.

Years later, people still ask me to recall a writer or a producer I worked with and I pitifully cannot oblige. I could have met this person once or worked on a project with them for months, still no inkling.

I forget people's names, forget to show up at school events, forget important milestones in friend's and family's lives. I'm pathetic.

Until now I've blamed it on my frequent ingestion of mind-altering substances in college (still got A's!) but I like David Brook's explanation better. (I've included excerpts below because unless you subscribe to the NYT you cannot access his opinion article online.)


The Great Forgetting, by David Brooks for the NYT (4/11/08)

...They say the 21st century is going to be the Asian Century, but, of course, it’s going to be the Bad Memory Century. Already, you go to dinner parties and the middle-aged high achievers talk more about how bad their memories are than about real estate. Already, the information acceleration syndrome means that more data is coursing through everybody’s brains, but less of it actually sticks. It’s become like a badge of a frenetic, stressful life — to have forgotten what you did last Saturday night, and through all of junior high.

In the era of an aging population, memory is the new sex.

Society is now riven between the memory haves and the memory have-nots. On the one side are these colossal Proustian memory bullies who get 1,800 pages of recollection out of a mere cookie-bite. They traipse around broadcasting their conspicuous displays of recall as if quoting Auden were the Hummer of conversational one-upmanship. On the other side are those of us suffering the normal effects of time, living in the hippocampically challenged community that is one step away from leaving the stove on all day...

...There will be new social movements and causes. The supermarket parking lots will be filled with cranky criminal gangs composed of middle-aged shoppers looking for their cars. As it becomes clear that a constant stream of blog posts and e-mails decimates the capacity for recall, people will be confronted with the modern Sophie’s choice — your BlackBerry or your mind.

Neural environmentalists will emerge from the slow foods movement, urging people to accept memory loss as a way to reduce their mental footprint. Meanwhile, mnemonic gurus will emerge offering to sell neural Viagra, but the only old memories the pills really bring back will involve trigonometry...


"hippocampically challenged"...

I like it. I think I'll use it.

I better go write it down.

3 Comments:

mac said...

Thanks for remembering our experience. See, not all is lost! And it really wasn't that bad, at least I don't remember it that way.

Lynn said...

Crap. I wanted to post a comment, but I forgot what I wanted to say. I know the kids sucked out all my good brain cells.

Lori said...

I've always had a one track mind, never been great at multi-tasking. I'll tell you though, I've become more and more foggy-brained as I've become more and more middle-aged. I can't walk away from anything I'm doing without having it erased from my memory banks forever. Scary.

I have an article on my blog called "The Effects of Exercise on Cognitive Decline" - experts claim that aerobic exercise can help us to at least not become completely brain dead by age 60. (So far it hasn't helped me much, but maybe it'll work for you?) It's under my health category if you want to check it out.

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